No. 4chan is not safe for teens. Period.
4chan is an image board social media forum, and home to some of the worst behavior and shocking photos on the internet. On the positive side of the ledger, it’s also home to some wonderful, esoteric information and discussions, and is unofficial home of the internet activist group Anonymous, which has brought bad guys to justice on more than one occasion. 4chan is also credited with creating some of the most poplar memes on the internet including the Rick Roll and Lolcats.
The site is organized in into “boards”, and each board has its own category and posting guidelines. The term image board refers to how users post new content. A new post must include an image, and follow up posts either comment on that image or post an image of their own. Each reply bumps that post to the top of the board again, so popular posts tend to stick around for a while.
Users are anonymous, and registration not only is not required, it is not possible. The rules state that users must be 18, but no attempt is made to verify age since there is no registration process. Content on each board is listed from newest to oldest, with the oldest content reportedly disappearing forever.
Boards like “music”, “video games” and “photography” do indeed have discussions that would be of interest to teen who are focused on that type of thing.
If users are anonymous and users’ posts disappear forever, you might be inclined to think it’s safe for a teen to browse there. Well, it’s almost impossible to browse 4chan without running into content or opinions that most parents would find not only unsafe, but downright shocking. Fox News describes 4chan users as “a bunch of antisocial, foul-mouthed, clever nerds”. Let’s discuss what we mean by safe.
Exposure to inappropriate content – Many posts are meant to get a reaction by being intentionally shocking, containing nudity, pornography, gore or weapons. Some content that is illegal (such as child porn) is not allowed.
Cyberbullying – Many of the comments on 4chan are attacks on the original poster of the thread (OP). Seasoned users refer to themselves as “fags” or “/b/tards”, and new users are called “newfags” or “trolls”. If your teen posts on 4chan, there is a very good chance he will be bullied.
Predator/identity risk – Not a big deal on 4chan, except in extreme cases. There is no way to contact another user directly other than replying to one of their posts, so normal predators can’t get to you. If 4chan power users (many of them hackers) decide you’ve done something that crosses the line, you could be at risk of being “doxed”, or having your real identity revealed despite the fact that you posted to the internet anonymously.
Exposure to hateful opinions – Since many 4chan users are some of the most aggressive trolls on the internet, users are likely to be exposed to opinions that appear to be or are sexist, racist, anti government and anti everything else.
I suppose you could make the argument that the most mature teens out there could get the good stuff from 4chan and ignore the bad stuff, or take it with a grain of salt, but as a parent we wouldn’t risk it.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring teen internet activity.